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									What is General Insurance?

Insurance other than ‘Life Insurance’ falls under the category of General
Insurance. General Insurance comprises of insurance of property against fire,
burglary etc, personal insurance such as Accident and Health Insurance, and
liability insurance which covers legal liabilities. There are also other covers
such as Errors and Omissions insurance for professionals, credit insurance

Non-life insurance companies have products that cover property against Fire
and allied perils, flood storm and inundation, earthquake and so on. There
are products that cover property against burglary, theft etc. The non-life
companies also offer policies covering machinery against breakdown,there
are policies that cover the hull of ships and so on. A Marine Cargo policy
covers goods in transit including by sea, air and road. Further, insurance of
motor vehicles against damages and theft forms a major chunk of non-life
insurance business.

In respect of insurance of property, it is important that the cover is taken for
the actual value of the property to avoid being imposed a penalty should
there be a claim. Where a property is undervalued for the purposes of
insurance, the insured will have to bear a rateable proportion of the loss. For
instance if the value of a property is Rs.100 and it is insured for Rs.50/-, in
the event of a loss to the extent of say Rs.50/-, the maximum claim amount
payable would be Rs.25/- ( 50% of the loss being borne by the insured for
underinsuring the property by 50% ). This concept is quite often not
understood by most insureds.

Personal insurance covers include policies for Accident, Health etc. Products
offering Personal Accident cover are benefit policies. Health insurance
covers offered by non-life insurers are mainly hospitalization covers either
on reimbursement or cashless basis. The cashless service is offered through
Third Party Administrators who have arrangements with various service
providers, i.e., hospitals. The Third Party Administrators also provide
service for reimbursement claims. Sometimes the insurers themselves
process reimbursement claims.

Accident and health insurance policies are available for individuals as well
as groups. A group could be a group of employees of an organization or
holders of credit cards or deposit holders in a bank etc. Normally when a
group is covered, insurers offer group discounts.

Liability insurance covers such as Motor Third Party Liability Insurance,
Workmen’s Compensation Policy etc offer cover against legal liabilities that
may arise under the respective statutes— Motor Vehicles Act, The
Workmen’s Compensation Act etc. Some of the covers such as the foregoing
(Motor Third Party and Workmen’s Compensation policy ) are compulsory
by statute. Liability Insurance not compulsory by statute is also gaining
popularity these days. Many industries insure against Public liability. There
are liability covers available for Products as well.

There are general insurance products that are in the nature of package
policies offering a combination of the covers mentioned above. For instance,
there are package policies available for householders, shop keepers and also
for professionals such as doctors, chartered accountants etc. Apart from
offering standard covers, insurers also offer customized or tailor-made ones.

Suitable general Insurance covers are necessary for every family. It is
important to protect one’s property, which one might have acquired from
one’s hard earned income. A loss or damage to one’s property can leave one
shattered. Losses created by catastrophes such as the tsunami, earthquakes,
cyclones etc have left many homeless and penniless. Such losses can be
devastating but insurance could help mitigate them. Property can be covered,
so also the people against Personal Accident. A Health Insurance policy can
provide financial relief to a person undergoing medical treatment whether
due to a disease or an injury.

Industries also need to protect themselves by obtaining insurance covers to
protect their building, machinery, stocks etc. They need to cover their
liabilities as well. Financiers insist on insurance. So, most industries or
businesses that are financed by banks and other institutions do obtain covers.
But are they obtaining the right covers? And are they insuring adequately are
questions that need to be given some thought. Also organizations or
industries that are self-financed should ensure that they are protected by

Most general insurance covers are annual contracts. However, there are few
products that are long-term.
It is important for proposers to read and understand the terms and conditions
of a policy before they enter into an insurance contract. The proposal form
needs to be filled in completely and correctly by a proposer to ensure that
the cover is adequate and the right one.
General insurance : QUESTIONS and ANSWERS

What is insurance?

We face a lot of risks in our daily lives. Some of these lead to financial losses. Insurance
is a way of protecting against these financial losses. For a payment (premium), an
insurance company will take the responsibility of compensating your financial losses.

What is general insurance?

Insuring anything other than human life is called general insurance. Examples are
insuring property like house and belongings against fire and theft or vehicles against
accidental damage or theft. Injury due to accident or hospitalisation for illness and
surgery can also be insured. Your liabilities to others arising out of the law can also be
insured and is compulsory in some cases like motor third party insurance.

Why should one insure ?

One of the main reasons one should insure is to protect one’s belongings and assets
against financial loss. When one has earned and accumulated property, protecting it is
prudent. The law also requires us to be insured against some liabilities. That is, in case
we should cause a loss to another person, that person is entitled to compensation. To
ensure that we can afford to pay that compensation, the law requires us to buy liability
insurance so that the responsibility of paying the compensation is transferred to an
insurance company.

Who should buy general insurance?

Anyone who owns an asset can buy insurance to protect it against losses due to fire or
theft and so on. Each one of us can insure our and our dependents’ health and well being
through hospitalisation and personal accident policies. To buy a policy the person should
be the one who will bear financial losses if they occur. This is called insurable interest.

What kinds of policies are there?

Most general insurance policies are annual – that is, they last for one year. Some policies
are given for longer periods – like fire insurance for residences – and some for shorter
periods – like insurance for goods transportation or for emergency medical treatment
during foreign travel.

How much should I insure for?
The amount you insure for is called the sum assured. Normally a policy should cover the
value of the asset – either the market value while insuring, or the cost of replacing the
asset should it be lost or destroyed. The premium will depend on the sum assured.

Can I take two policies and get claims under both of them?

 In case of an indemnity cover (one that seeks to compensate the actual loss )--for
instance, a policy that covers property, if there are two policies in vogue, the loss shall be
shared by both the policies. In no case can an insured get more than the actual pecuniary
loss he or she has incurred. On the other hand, in respect of benefit policies like the
Personal Accident policy, where a fixed compensation is paid, no matter what the actual
loss is , one may obtain more than one policy.

On what basis is claim paid?

In indemnity policies, the upper limit of a claim is the sum assured and this usually
applies for the period of the policy. Certain policies, however, allow for reinstatement of
the Sum Insured by payment of proportionate premium for the remaining period of the
policy. The actual claim will be the actual extent of financial loss as validated by
documents like bills. If the property is underinsured, the insured shall bear a rateable
proportion of the loss. There can be more than one claim in the policy period but the sum
assured is usually the limit for the policy period unless reinstated.

Nowadays health insurance policies – which cover hospitalisation costs – have also a
cashless settlement of claims. That is, you don’t have to pay for the treatment at the
hospital and then make a claim for reimbursement of the expenses. The insurance
company has a service provider called the third party administrator (TPA) health
services, who liaises with the hospitals and directly makes the payment for your treatment
as per the terms of your policy and coverage.

What is the periodicity of premium payments?

Most general insurance policies are annual and the premium payment is in advance. No
risk commences unless you have paid the premium. In some long term policies
companies have the facility of collecting premiums periodically.

Why do different people have different premiums ?

The premium is calculated on the extent and nature of the cover you want. A higher sum
insured means a higher rate of premium. Similarly a higher risk will be charged a higher
premium. An example of this is that an older person will have to pay a higher premium
for health insurance for the same sum insured. Sometimes the risk is higher depending on
the location of risks – for example in motor insurance in areas where accidents are higher.
So the premium will vary according to the nature and severity of the risk.

If I buy a policy and don’t make a claim, it is a loss. So, why should I buy insurance?
General insurance is not meant to be for savings or investment returns. It is meant for
protection. What you pay for is the protection against a risk. To approach it as something
from which returns should be obtained is not the correct approach as there is a price to
pay for protecting a property worth lakhs for a few hundred rupees.

If there are problems with claims what can I do?

First you should write to the company and give them sufficient time to respond suitably.
If they don’t respond, or it is not a response satisfactory to you, then you can approach
the appropriate judicial channel. For complaints relating to personal insurance covers
upto a value of Rs.20 lakh, you may approach the Insurance Ombudsman in your area.


The Ombudsman has a technical team that will go into the merits of your case and give
an award) If you are unhappy with the outcome with the Ombudsman you still have
recourse to consumer courts.

The IRDA also has a Grievance Cell. You may contact…………………….


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